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The continuing saga of Herrmann’s Castle

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Hermann's Castle on Shore Road.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Herrmann’s Castle on Shore Road.

Four years and counting.

That’s how long the fate of Herrmann’s Castle, the crumbling, idiosyncratic white structure rising above Crescent Beach next to the Pridwin, has been the subject of official town agendas.

Now it could be back to square one for Zach Vella’s interminable efforts to build a house replacing the old pile at 85 Shore Road.

A misunderstanding between town officials and Mr. Vella’s representatives could stall — again — the process, Town Attorney Laury Dowd said at the June 22 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.

That’s because the Town Board previously approved a special permit allowing for a two-story structure and a wetlands permit, then told Mr. Vella’s team that an observation room addition would have to be considered by the ZBA since only the two-story structure was covered by the Town Board’s special permit.

Coming before the ZBA last week, Mr. Vella’s representatives were told that’s not the order in which they should have handled the application. They needed to start at the ZBA first and then come to the Town Board.

Ms. Dowd said it was only because Mr. Vella was in a rush to get Town Board approval for the two-story structure that they waived action on the ZBA variance needed for the observation room.

Mr. Vella’s representatives countered, saying Building Inspector Bill Banks, in issuing the turndown for a construction permit necessary to take the project to the Town Board and ZBA, hadn’t informed them of the order in which they would have to proceed.

Mr. Banks, who retired as building inspector this month, said there were so many plans brought to the department for that property in the last several years, he can’t recall what he might have said.

That’s what happens with a project that goes through so many changes, Mr. Banks added.

A different team is in place representing Mr. Vella now than was in place four years ago when an application was filed to renovate the structure, not demolish and replace it.

Pridwin operator Glenn Petry said in a letter to the ZBA his only concern is he doesn’t want construction to next door during the months when the hotel would have guests. But he wished Mr. Vella luck with the overall project.

Another neighbor, questioned in a letter  to the ZBA what hardship Mr. Vella had that justified adding the observation room. Still another letter received by the ZBA said allowing a height variance would encourage others to build higher structures.

Architect Barbara Corwin argued that the new structure with the proposed observation room would be lower than the height of the existing Herrmann’s Castle, which has an observation room. It has been there for 40 years, Ms. Corwin said.

All parties are in agreement that the deterioration of the building is so extensive that it’s beyond repair.
Building Permits Coordinator Mary Wilson, who retires this month, said when she inspected the structure, “Any idiot would know it has to come down.”

While the hearing remains open until the ZBA’s July 27 meeting, it remains unclear if the Vella team has to return to the Town Board for a special permit should it gain approval of the observation room.

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